Novartis said Tuesday it will discontinue or license out 10% of its clinical development projects after reviewing their strategic fit and sales potential.
The Swiss drugmaker has trimmed its drug pipeline to 136 projects, down by 16 from the 152 disclosed in its fourth quarter earnings report, according to a presentation Tuesday. The biggest cutbacks came to its early-stage projects, with 19 programs cut. Half of those were early-stage programs testing drugs for solid tumors.
The move comes one year after Novartis resized its business and narrowed its research focus to five core therapeutic areas — cardiovascular, immunology, neuroscience, solid tumors and hematology. It expects to save at least $1 billion annually by 2024 as a result.
“We systematically looked at the pipeline, identified projects that were outside the scope of these core therapeutic areas, or in the case of oncology, we're addressing tumors that are no longer priority tumors for the company,” Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said on an call with investors Tuesday.
“We saw we had more projects than our peers, which led to having less investment per project,” he added.
Novartis’ restructuring has resulted in layoffs for thousands of employees, and the company is in the process of spinning out its generics division Sandoz. In February, it halted work on medicines for sickle cell disease and Huntington’s disease and gave up the licensing rights for a drug aimed at a type of fatty liver disease.
Novartis first quarter sales rose by 3% to about $13 billion from a year earlier, driven by a 16% increase in volume offset by 4% erosion in price. Generic competition negatively impacted sales as well.
Sales of its top-selling drug, the heart failure pill Entresto, increased by 28% to $1.4 billion from a year earlier, while sales of its second highest earner, the inflammatory disease drug Cosentyx, were 7% lower at $1.1 billion.
Novartis also reported strong growth for its cancer drugs. Sales of breast cancer treatment Kisqali rose 74% year over year to $415 million, while sales of its prostate cancer drug Pluvicto rose to $211 million from $171 million in the fourth quarter. Novartis is expanding production of Pluvicto amid strong demand and supply challenges.
Novartis said its Sandoz business is still on track to be spun off in the second half of 2023.
Novartis pipeline (vs. Q4 2022)
|Phase 1/2||Phase 3||Registration||Total|
|Solid Tumors||15 (-9)||15||2 (-1)||32 (-10)|
|Hematology||18 (-3)||8||0||26 (-3)|
|Immunology||20 (-3)||10 (+3)||4||34|
|Cardiovascular||6 (-2)||6 (+1)||1||13 (-1)|
|Others||17 (-2)||2||0||19 (-2)|
|Total||81 (-19)||48 (+4)||7 (-1)||136 (-16)|
Source: Novartis earnings